Mannheim Steamroller Christmas: Reviewed
By Spencer Schaffer
Founded by Chip Davis in 1974 and with over 40 million albums sold, the world famous musical group Mannheim Steamroller electrified the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon in November of 2017. The six-piece ensemble was joined by members of the esteemed Oregon Symphony, filling out the orchestral sound with true musical dynamism.
The show began with a visual montage presentation of many NASA manned space flights, projected onto a massive screen which hung behind the band. Images and video clips of the space shuttle, astronauts, and various astronomical objects panned the screen, accompanied by sound effects, fog machines, and real audio footage. After a few minutes of this alternative opening, the drummer on stage enters with percussive enthusiasm, followed by the other members in a splendid array of euphonious sounds. The rest of the first half consisted of several Mannheim Steamroller Christmas favorites including "Deck the Halls," "Little Drummer Boy," and "Angles We Have Heard On High," among others. These masterful adaptations of holiday standards are globally accepted as their own standards, and have earned a historical reputation as some of the best renditions of Christmas songs ever created.
After intermission, the festive spirit continued with more jubilant tunes such as "Joy to the World," "Feliz Navidad," and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." Throughout the entire concert, a stunning light show animated the hall with multi-colored lights, rotating and swaying in sync with the music. This visual element added an enthralling element to the distinct Mannheim Steamroller sound, which masterfully blends early music styles with rock and roll influences. The unique use of early music instruments such as a harpsichord, recorders, and a zither creates a sound that is unmistakably Steamroller. Finishing the second set with their rapturous rendition of "Carol of the Bells," the band received a standing ovation, and proceeded to play an encore. When the applause reduced to silence, the heartwarming melody of "Silent Night" echoed throughout the concert hall. Pure beauty radiated from the stage out into the hearts of the audience, bringing to a close another elegant holiday tradition.